Virginia Tech will host Spectrum — ShaRC, an adaptive and cognitive student radio design contest for students. The first place winner will receive $5,000 in prize money.

Cognitive radios are similar to intelligent cell phones that can determine the best way to operate in any given situation. Instead of blindly following a set of predefined protocols, like regular radios, cognitive radios can now configure to their environment and their user's needs.

The new cognitive radios are similar to living creatures in that they are aware of their surroundings and understand their own and their user's capabilities and the governing social constraints.

The contest, open to all students worldwide, is organized by Wireless @ Virginia Tech and is supported in part by a $30,000 Motorola Solutions Innovation Generation grant from the Motorola Solutions Foundation. The grant is supplying the prize money for the first, second, and third place winners, and travel support for participants in the final competition.

Teams will be supplied with basic working codes for software-defined radios at the beginning of each leg of the competition and will adapt or develop and implement algorithms to improve the radios' performance. Contest participants will also have the option to substitute radio code developed using the popular GNU Radio toolkit or other open-source software.

While the initial competitions test the students' submitted entries in signal environments generated by the contest organizers, a final invitational round for the top four designs is planned for the Wireless@VT Symposium and Summer School, to be held May 25-27, 2016. At that time, the final four teams will compete against each other for the top awards.

Additional support for the competition comes from Virginia Tech's Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering  and other sponsors. Virginia Tech's contest organizers include Carl Dietrich, Vuk Marojevic, and Richard Goff of engineering education.

Others who are working on closely related research and/or developing software that will be used in the contest include Goff, Jason Snyder, a project associate of electrical and computer engineering, and Michael Fowler, a Hume Center research faculty member and Ph.D. student. Additional support comes from faculty and students in the department, as well as Virginia Tech's Advanced Research Computing Center, the computer science department, and the Software Technologies Laboratory.

The contest organizers will be able to provide technical and administrative support to teams within and outside Virginia Tech through an email list or online forum, although they may not serve as team advisers.

An entry form can be downloaded from Wireless @ Virginia Tech's website, and teams can enter by emailing the completed forms to Dietrich with subject "Spectrum Contest Entry."